27 November 2006

NO flash photography at a wedding???

I was told once by a parish priest of many years service that there are three guaranteed things a pastor can say to a congregation to get them really, really angry:

1). "Folks, Mass starts at 11am. Could you get here on time, please. Arriving during the homily is just rude."

2). "Folks, this is the Lord's House...and that's not the name of a strip club. Could you make sure your teenagers dress for Mass and not for MTV's Spring Break Bikini Special?"

3). "Folks, of course we all want to make a joyful noise to the Lord, but your child has been screaming non-stop for fifty minutes. As amusing as you might think we think that is...we don't. There's a Cry Room for a reason. Use it."

OK. I added the dashes of sarcasm, but you get the picture: asking people to arrive on time for Mass, dress appropriately, and to take their crying babies out of the Church proper are all ways for the Pastor to lose ground in the polls.

I've found another one. Before a wedding or a Baptism, say this to the photographer: "No flash pictures of any kind once Mass begins. None. Never. Not even one." And then make sure that the people in the congregation know it as well. Otherwise, the entire Mass becomes a media event complete with flashing paparatzi and whirring camera lenses!

I'm curious about what other presiders out there do about flash photography at weddings, confirmations, baptisms, etc.
Fr. Philip, OP


  1. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Fr. Powell,

    I myself am curious...if a pastor says or does something that annoys or angers the parishioners, that "lowers him in the polls," as you put it, what does that mean for the pastor? I mean, is he in trouble? I suppose it's possible for a pastor to "lose" his parish, lose their hearts and minds, etc. What happens then? Does he just struggle against them all the time?
    Maybe someone who has been in this situation can comment.
    I won't be offended if you delete this comment for being off-topic. God bless!

  2. Flash photography isn't allowed at all in our parish (if I remember correctly) because of the statues. Something about the aging of the statues..? I have no idea.

    The photographers that come for weddings at our parish have to sign contracts before the ceremony.. and it's very clear about those things! :D They don't like us very much. ... Oh well!

    Father, are you at St. Luke's by any chance? I may have met you. Goodness, I feel like I ishould have run into you by now and since you're a Dominican.. well, anyway. If I knew your email I'd email you.. but you probably take comfort in knowing that I don't. *giggles to self*

  3. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Our Old Rite chaplain - Fr Andrew Southwell - allows any number of photos as long as they don't have a flash in order to promulgate the Old Mass. I think this is rather a good policy as photo's of a beautiful Mass - Old or New - do make an outsider, so I've been told, have more of an idea of what to expect when they actually go to Catholic Mass, which can be difficult to understand if you've no idea what to expect.

    With permission he allows one flash photo per Mass - hence all the Mass photos on my blog.

  4. Our parish is pretty strong on no flash photos -- in fact, they ask that no photographs of any kind be taken during the Mass....

    Of course we also sell DVD's of First Communions, Confirmations, Graduations....

    And there's always someone who doesn't think the ban applies to them.... we've almost got my mother-in-law in line... but we went through five children to do it....

  5. Anonymous7:16 PM

    I don't attend that many Weddings to have noticed the Pastor saying no flashes. But I have heard the Pastor ask people to spread the news "NO Flashes," in the bulletin, etc., at First Communions and Confirmations. I don't know about Baptisms.
    The reason why you can't use Flash in a museum is because of the light exposure on the art work.
    And even though Father asks for no flashes he always adds that after the ceremony he will be available for pictures with whomever.
    But I always think whenever I hear of this request, "Is it really that bad?" It's such an important event in one's life that I'd hate for the priest to be the one to spoil it.
    And I've got another request that the Pastor shys away from. Don't leave the church immediately after receiving Communion. Some rude people actually bump into the priest trying to squeeze by him to get out.

  6. Anonymous8:58 AM

    To me, this relates to a growing lack of decorum, or at least, a lack of common sense. This is in our culture and in our churches. Increasingly, I see people doing things because of their apparent want regardless of the inconvenience it causes others. It is distressing to me, but how do you reinstitute what the culture is rejecting.

  7. Anonymous11:27 AM

    I actually wish priest would say some of these things (#1, 2 & flash photos). Flash photography is annoying during mass and other celebrations because it distracts people from the meaning of the event.

  8. Anonymous9:49 PM

    In my parish we allow NO photography at all at baptisms, first communions and confirmation. An announcement is made before the liturgy begins, with the promise that after the closing song, folks may assemble/pose/photograph to their hearts' content.

    At weddings we allow one photographer who, after the processional, has clear guidelines on where he/she may/may not go. No flash. We allow one videographer who is required to find one place in the church and do all videography from there. The pastor makes an announcement before the liturgy begins indicating that professional photographers have been engaged by the nuptial couple and that all others are asked to put away any cameras of any kind in order to participate more prayerfully themselves and to insure that others are not distracted.

    We've been doing this for about 12 years and folks now understand that this is parish policy. Very often parishioners return from sacramental celebrations in other parishes and report their gratitude for the parish policy since what they witnessed in other churches was such a distraction.

  9. Anonymous9:50 PM

    I was a professional photographer for many years. A real pro is able to make excellent pictures without flash and can do so without detracting. I've done it in small chapels and in cathedrals. I shot an entire wedding a few years ago and the family thought I had not shown up.
    Some priests are helpful, while one I encountered objected to me and others possessing cameras outside the church building.
    I agree that flash photography should not be part of any Mass, nor should doting relatives insist upon using their handy-dandy video cameras to record weddings, first communions, funerals, or other properly solemn circumstances.
    Maybe at a clown Mass, Barney Mass, or dancing girl masses...

  10. Crying rooms are insulting. First catholics are supposed to have the kids and take them to church, but don't let them be part of the church. Makes sense.
    Christ said, Suffer the little children. I don't think he meant, make them suffer in the crying room.

    If Children aren't welcome in church proper, then don't baptise them in infancy and force them and their parents into crying rooms. That says Come to church, be part of our family, but not completely.

    Some CHRISTian you are!!!!!!!

  11. Puff,

    I didn't say children shouldn't be welcomed at Mass. Of course, they should be...always. What I said was that screaming children should be taken to the Cry Room. Be careful invoking Jesus here. Children weren't allowed in the temple area where rabbis taught. Jesus never had to teach with a three year screaming bloody murder while the mother and father sit there pretending that nothing is wrong and that everyone thinks the whole ear-piercing drama is cute.

    Children are always welcomed at Mass. Screaming children are always welcomed in the Cry Room.

    And, by the way, let me quickly point out that calling my faith into question b/c we disagree on the proper location for disruptive kids during Mass is uncharitable.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  12. Are you sure about the "Jesus never having to preach over crying 3 year olds. He did alot of preaching outside the synogogue and temple, and I am sure that more than a few of the 5000 were under 3 and could have made a wail of a noise, but then He is God, and could silence the wind, so a few hundred screaming kids was no problem.
    My apologies for the ad homenum attack.
    But I have been to churches where as soon as someone walks in with a child, even one sleeping, s/he is directed to go immediately to the crying room, or "family room", lest the child make noise. Giving the message "come, but be apart"
    I have 2 children, and one will be 4 on December 23rd, she (they both did) has learned by instruction and example that church is quiet place. The three year old now kneels, and stands at the proper places, sings along with the hymns and responses. The sitting and standing through the readings and homily are my next project,but for now she colours or looks at books. If I had her in a crying room, she would never learn by example, because everyone is making noise, and no one is responding to the mass.
    Keeping babies quiet is difficult, and yes, once the baby is inconsolable with being nursed, bottle, pacifier, cookies, then parent should move. Most in our church, move on their own, to the vestibule which is long and wide enough for parents to make a good circuit walking.
    Further, any parent who ignores a crying child for 50 minutes should be reported to the CCAS. That is cruel to ignore an infant that long.
    Also if you have a crying room, Might I suggest and gabbing room for those adults who find it necessary to talk to everyone but God during mass.

    I'm adding you to my links